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CURRENT AFFAIRS 05 JULY 2017

INDIAN AFFAIRS

Indo-Thai joint military exercise begins in Himachal Pradesh
There is a 15-day long joint military training exercise between the Indian and Thai army has begun from 3rd July in Himachal Pradesh.
Key Points:
i. The joint exercise between the two armies is an annual event.
ii. The main aim is to build and promote bilateral Army-to-Army relations and enhance inter-operability between the two armies.
iii. The armies of India and Thailand are conducting the yearly joint training exercise named Ex Maitree 2017 from July 3 to July 17 at Bakloh in Himachal Pradesh.
iv. Approximately 50 troops from Royal Thailand Army and an equal number of Indian soldiers from the Northern Command will participate in the exercise.
v. The conduct of ‘Ex Maitree 2017’ will enhance defence cooperation between the two countries.
vi. The two armies will jointly plan and execute a series of drills for the neutralisation of likely threats that may be encountered in counter terrorism environment.
National Parks in Himachal Pradesh
♦ Great Himalayan National Park, Pin Valley National Park, Inderkilla National Park, Khirganga National Park and Simbalbara National Park

Free GST facilitation centres set up across Goa
In Goa, the Office of the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes has set up GST facilitation centres in ward offices across the state. The department’s head office has set up inPanaji.
Key Notes:
i. The trained help desk personnel have been appointed for each ward and the head office to assist taxpayers in resolving their technical issues related to migration to GST, registration, amendments, return filing and payments.
ii. The chartered accountants will provide free consultation services related to GST between 4-6 pm till the 10 July.
iii. The Government has identified some Chartered Accountants for this work and the fees of the identified CA’s would be paid by the government itself.
iv. The accountants would give free advice or consultation to the taxpayers on the implementation of the landmark Goods and Service Tax system.
v. The facility will also be available at the Commercial Tax Ward Offices in Panaji, Margao, Mapusa, Ponda and Vasco.
Key facts:
♦ Dabolim Airport in Goa
♦ Mollem National Park in Goa

India’s tallest ATC tower to be operational at Delhi airport by December
The new ATC tower at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport will be the tallest structure in Delhi.It is likely to start operations by December.This is a 101.9-metre tower.
Key Points:
i. The airport operator has handed over the tower to the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Qutab Minar is 72.5 metres high.
ii. The tower, among the tallest structures in Delhi, will give a 360-degree view of the airport to the controllers who will be able to see all the three runways, aprons and taxiways.
iii. The tower, built at a cost of Rs 350 crore, has come up at a more centralised location.
iv. It is adjacent to the present tower and once ready, it will be the seventh tallest ATC tower in the world.
v. The present ATC complex and the 60-metre tower was built in 1999 and is at a considerable distance from the third runway constructed in 2008.
vi. The new ATC tower and the fourth runway is expected to help to reduce congestion in the air and handle more flights.
vii. Officials expect to commission the fourth runway by 2019, which will take the per hour capacity of the Delhi airport from 75 flights to 105.
viii. The new ATC tower will have 21 controller positions with a 360 degree view at the visual control room and 12 ground controllers at the operational level.

President clears bill banning hookah bars in Gujarat
President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to a bill banning hookah in Gujarat on 3rd of July 2017.
Key Points:
i. Those who will run hookah bars in Gujarat will now draw a maximum jail term of three years.
ii. The main aim of the government is to protect the youth from this dangerous addiction, which causes various kinds of cancer.
iii. The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2017 had been passed by the Gujarat Assembly in February and sent to Governor O P Kohli.
iv. After giving his approval, the governor had sent the Bill to the president, who gave his assent recently.
v. The state government will take strict action as per the new Act against those, who found to be running such hookah joints in the state.
vi. It is necessary to put a total ban on hookah bars in the state to save the young generation from falling prey to this new addiction, which is “more dangerous” than cigarettes.
vii. As per the new Act,running a hookah bar in Gujarat will charge a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 and a jail term up to three years.
National Park in Gujarat :
♦ Gir National Park , Blackbuck National Park, Marine National Park and Vansda National Park





INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

TERI ranked second among world’s climate think tanks
TERI was ranked number two by the International Center for Climate Governance (ICCG). ICCG is an internationally-renowned body whose activities focus on the design of climate policy and related governance issues.
Key Notes:
i. TERI conducts research for sustainable development of India.
ii. The system would need to be guided by extensive research, climate modelling capabilities and assessments of economically viable and technologically feasible solutions.
iii. ICCG ranking helps highlight the scale and magnitude of work done by the think tanks working in the field of climate change.
iv. The New Delhi-based think tank was ranked under the category 2016 Top Climate Think Tanks in the Rest of the World–Absolute Global Rankings during ICCGs 23rd annual conference of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (EAERE) in Athens in Greece.
v. TERI DG Ajay Mathur said ranking encourages and motivates us to continue to work with the global community towards building a greener tomorrow.
TERI:
The Energy and Resources Institute is a research institute based in New Delhi that conducts research work in the fields of energy, environment and sustainable development.
♦ Director General: Dr. Ajay Mathur
♦ Sponsor: Ministry of New and Renewable Energy

Chinese troops entered Doklam area in attempt to construct road
On June 30, 2017, India told China that its attempt to construct a road in the Doklam area in Bhutan will cause a “significant change of status quo”, is a “violation of a 2012 understanding”, and will lead to “serious security implications.
Related Information:
i. On June 16, 2017, Chinese Army’s construction party entered the Doklam area and attempted to construct a road.
ii. Indian soldiers as well as soldiers from the Royal Bhutan Army urged Chinese soldiers “to desist from changing the status quo”.
iii. In 2012, India and China agreed that the tri-junction boundary points between them and a third country will be decided upon in consultation with the concerned countries.
iv. India’s Ministry of External Affairs has stated that ‘any attempt by China to unilaterally determine tri-junction points is in violation of 2012 understanding’.





BANKING & FINANCE

India in 88th place in money hoarded in Swiss banks
As per an analysis of the latest figures compiled by the Swiss National BankIndia has slipped to 88th place in terms of money parked by its citizens with Swiss banks by the end of 2016. With maximum holdings, UK has topped the list.
i. Money officially held by Indians with banks in Switzerland now accounts for a meagre 04% of the total funds kept by all foreign clients in the Swiss banking system
ii. India was placed at 75th position in 2015 and at 61st in 2014. Till 2007, India used to be among top-50 countries in terms of holdings in Swiss banks.
iii. UK accounted for the largest chunk at about CHF 359 (over 25%) of the total foreign money with Swiss banks.

India gets good ranks on FSB’s reform report card to G20
On July 3, 2017, international body for global financial system, Financial Stability Board (FSB) submitted its status report to G20 on progress in financial regulatory reforms in various jurisdictions, including India. FSB has listed India among countries that are ‘compliant or largely compliant’ on implementation of priority area reforms. 
i. The report listed India as a ‘compliant’ jurisdiction with regard to the Basel III reforms in area of risk-based capital and as ‘largely compliant’ on liquidity coverage ratio.
ii. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey and the US have been found to be ‘compliant or largely compliant’ with regard to the Basel III reforms in area of risk-based capital and liquidity coverage ratio, whereas France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK have been found to be ‘materially non-compliant’ on at least one parameter.

ADB pledges USD 220mn for improving road connectivity in Rajasthan
Asian Development Bank (ADB) has committed USD 220 million for improving road connectivity as well as transport efficiency and safety on state highways of Rajasthan on 3rd of July 2017.
Key Notes:
i. The loan is the first tranche of the USD 500 million Rajasthan State Highways Investment Programme, approved by the ADB Board in May this year.
ii. It will upgrade about 2,000 kilometers of state highways and major district roads to two- lane or intermediate-lane standards to meet road safety requirements.
iii. The main aim of ADB and the government will together strengthen the transportation efficiency of the state highway.
iv. It will also enhance the capacity of the state public works department in the areas of road asset management, road safety and project management.
v. The first tranche of loan will improve about 1,000 kilometers of state highways and major district roads.
vi .It will have a 25-year term, including a grace period of 8 years.
vii. In accordance with ADB’s London interbank offered rate-based (LIBOR) lending facility it will also carry an annual interest rate determined commenting on the loan agreement.
About ADB
♦ Formation: 24 Nov 1966
♦ HQ: Manila, Philippines
♦ Head: Takehiko Nakao

RBI ups FPI investment limit in g-secs by over 4% for Jul-Sep
Reserve Bank has raised the FPI investment limit in government securities by 4.7% to Rs 2.42 lakh crore (Rs 2.42 billion) for July-September quarter, mainly to increase foreign capital inflows.
Key Points:
i. The foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) will be allowed to raise their investment in state development loans (SDLs) by Rs 6,100 crore (Rs 61 billion) to Rs 33,100 crore (Rs 331 billion) for September quarter of the current fiscal. 
ii. The overall limit of FPI investment in government securities goes up to Rs 2.75 lakh crore ( Rs 2,751 billion) from Rs 2.58 lakh crore (Rs 2,580 billion).
iii. Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) will issue the operational guidelines relating to allocation and monitoring of limits of the enhanced FPI investment in the central government securities and SDLs.
iv. There will be future increases in the limit for FPI investment in g-secs will be allocated in the ratio of 75% for long term category of FPIs and 25% for general category.
v. The medium term framework (MTF) for FPI investment in government securities (G-secs) and SDLs was introduced in October 2015.
vi. Sovereign Wealth Funds, Multilateral Agencies, Endowment Funds, Insurance Funds, Pension Funds and Foreign Central Banks are long term FPIs.

Credit card bill payment exempt from cash dealing limit
As per a notification issued by Revenue Department, restrictions on cash dealings of Rs. 2 lakh or more will not apply to credit card bill paymentsbusiness correspondents appointed by banks and issuers of prepaid instruments.
i. It is to be noted that the Finance Act 2017 banned cash transaction of 2 lakh or above with effect April 1, 2017. However, some exceptions were made.
ii. Five entities have been exempted from this rule. These include receipts by a business correspondent on behalf of a banking company or co-operative bank; and receipt by a company or institution issuing credit cards against bills raised in respect of one or more credit cards.
iii. Receipt from an agent by an issuer of pre-paid payment instruments, receipt by a white label ATM operator from retail outlet and receipt which is not includible in the total income under clause (17A) of section 10 of the I-T Act, 1961, have been excluded from the purview of the Section 269ST.





BUSINESS

Finance ministry removes additional excise duty on tobacco, cigarettes
The Finance Ministry has removed additional excise duty on tobacco, pan masala and cigarettes with effect from July 1, following the GST implementation. The revenue department has repealed the central excise notification dated February 27, 2010, which deals with excise duty rate on unmanufactured tobacco and chewing tobacco.
i. Background Information:
Following the rollout of Goods and Services Tax (GST) from July 1, 2017, the central excise notifications for tobacco, pan masala and cigarettes had to be brought in line with the new indirect tax regime. Under GST cess is levied on demerit and luxury goods over and above the peak GST rate of 28 per cent.
ii. Cess on Tobacco Products under GST:

ItemCess
Pan Masala60%
Tobacco71-204%
Scented Zarda & Filter Khaini160%
Pan Masala containing Gutkha204%
Filter and non-filter cigarettes not exceeding 65 mm5% cess plus Rs 1,591 per 1,000 sticks
Non-filter cigarettes exceeding 65 mm but not exceeding 70 mm attract5% cess plus Rs 2,876 per 1000 sticks
Filter cigarettes exceeding 65 mm but not exceeding 70 mm attract5% plus Rs 2,126 per 1000 sticks
Cigars21% or Rs 4,170 per 1,000 sticks, whichever is higher
Branded Gutkha72%
Smoking Mixtures for pipes and cigarettes290%

iii. It is to be noted that GST Constitutional (Amendment) Act permits the Centre to levy excise duty on six items including tobacco and tobacco products. The other items are petroleum crude, diesel, petrol, natural gas and Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF).

Nandan Nilekani, Sanjeev Aggarwal launch $100-million fund Fundamentum
Aadhaar architect Nandan Nilekani and Helion Venture’s Sanjeev Aggarwal have launched an investment fund called Fundamentum on 3rd of July 2017.
Key Notes:
i. It has been launched with a corpus of $100 million.
ii. The corpus may be extended to $200 million if the fund sees more opportunities.
iii. The fund, which has so far closed $50 million, will see one-third of the corpus coming from Nilekani and Aggarwal.
iv. Fundamentum has already brought onboard six entrepreneurs who will also invest in the fund.
v. It will include entrepreneurs who have built unicorns and decacorns.
vi. Investment team will include entrepreneur Ashish Kumar, who has joined as a partner, and Prateek Jain, who had founded StayGlad (acquired by Quikr).
vii. Fundamentum will invest about two-three startups in a year, ranging from $10 million to $25 million, and will mainly focus on consumer tech as well as enterprise technology startups serving global companies.

Microsoft India inks pact with NISA
Microsoft India has signed an agreement with National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA) to offer Microsoft Aspire School Program (MASP) Pro Plus to over 55,000 member schools.
Key Points:
i. MASP main aim is to equip schools with technology and innovative learning solutions, modernise campuses, and prepare future- ready students, among others.
ii .Through this partnership, schools across 23 states can now avail MASP Pro Plus.
iii. NISA brings together budget private schools (BPS) from across the country to give them a unified voice to address their concerns about legislations.
About NISA
♦ The National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA) is a platform that brings together budget private schools (BPS) from across the country.
♦ It gives them a unified voice to address their concerns about legislations and bye-laws which apply to them and to facilitate quality improvement in schools.
♦ As of today, NISA represents over 36,400 schools, from 20 state associations, which cater to the needs of 9.35 million children at an average of ~50 children per school.





AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS

Pune NGO wins UN prize for sustainable farming model
Swayam Shikshan Prayog is a city-based NGO, has been awarded the United Nations Development Programme’s Equator Prize
Key Points:
i. It has been awarded for devising an ecologically sustainable agriculture model to combat the adverse impacts of drought.
ii. The project has helped empower more than 20,000 marginal women farmers and their families in Marathwada by helping them make informed decisions about agriculture and the environment
iii. It is the only Indian organisation to win the award among 800 nominations across 120 countries.
iv. The prize-winning initiative is a women-led ‘climate resilient agro-ecological farming model’ for restoring land and soil.
v. Fifteen projects from organisations across Africa, Asia and Latin America won the award in recognition of innovative solutions to tackle poverty, and environment and climate challenges.
vi. Initiatives from Pakistan and Kazakhstan won recognition for the first time.





APPOINTMENTS & RESIGNS

Lt General Mahesh Senanayake appointed as New Army Commander of Sri Lanka
Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake, who played a key role in defeating the Tamil Tigers during the three-decade-long brutal civil war, has been appointed as New Army Commander of Sri Lanka by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.
About Mahesh Senanayake:
i. Mahesh Senanayake is a graduate of the prestigious United States Army Command and General Staff College and holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Civil Engineering from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
ii. He is currently serving as the Commander Security Forces in Jaffna.
iii. He was previously serving as the Chief of Staff (CoS) of the Sri Lanka Army.

Himachal Pradesh DGP Sanjay Kumar appointed new NDRF Chief
Himachal Pradesh DGP Sanjay Kumar has been appointed as the new chief of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) on 3th of July 2017.
Key Notes:
i. 
The Union home ministry has issued an order appointing Kumar, a 1985-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, to the top NDRF post.
ii. The post of NDRF Director General (DG) fell vacant after incumbent R K Pachnanda was appointed as the chief of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Sino-Indian border guarding force.
iii. The officer has served in central deputation earlier with the CISF, vigilance wing of the Railway Ministry and the Railway Protection Force.
iv. Pachnanda, at present, is still holding the charge of the NDRF DG after he took over as the ITBP DG on 30th June.
National Disaster Response Force :
♦ Motto: Saving Lives & Beyond
♦ Minister responsible : Rajnath Singh, Minister of Home Affairs
♦ Headquarters: New Delhi





SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

North Korea claims successful intercontinental ballistic missile test
North Korea claims to have successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on 4th of July 2017.
Key Notes:
i. It can strike targets anywhere in the world, following its most recent launch.
ii. US Pacific Command confirmed it had tracked “the “single launch of a land-based, intermediate range ballistic missile” for 37 minutes after it lifted off from an airfield north-west of Pyongyang.
iii. The South’s president, Moon Jae-in, said his country’s military was analysing the launch and the possibility the missile was an ICBM.
iv. The missile, which the US and South Korea had said was an intermediate-range projectile, landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone on Tuesday.
About North Korea
♦ Capital: Pyongyang
♦ Currency: North Korean won
♦ Supreme Leader: Kim Jong-un

SpaceX’s Dragon returns with first Chinese experiment from ISS
On July 3, 2017, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft returned to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) bringing back the first Chinese experiment ever to ISS.
Details Related to SpaceX’s Dragon Cargo Re-Supply Mission to ISS:
i. This was SpaceX’s 11th contracted cargo re-supply mission for NASA.
ii. Dragonhas returned with more than 1,860kg of cargo, including science samples from human and animal research, biotechnology studies, physical science investigations and education activities.
iii. One of the science samples was the first-ever Chinese experiment brought to the space station, which is fully commercial, under an agreement with Houston-based NanoRacks, which offers services for the commercial utilisation of the orbiting laboratory.
iv. The experiment from the Beijing Institute of Technology was aimed at studying the effects of the space radiation environment on DNA and the changes in mutation rate.





ENVIRONMENT

Sundarbans mangrove cover at risk says Study
As per a publication titled ‘Mangrove Forest Cover Changes in Indian Sundarban (1986-2012) Using Remote Sensing and GIS’, by the School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, 124.418 sq. km. mangrove forest cover in Indian Sundarbans has been lost from 1986 to 2012.
i. The total forest cover of the Indian Sunderbans as assessed by remote sensing studies for the year 1986 was about 2,246.839 sq. km., which gradually declined by 2,201.41 sq. km. in 1996, then down to 2168.914 sq km in 2001 and to 2122.421 sq km in 2012.
ii. The loss in the mangrove forest in the Indian Sunderbans is about 5.5 %. Maximum erosion of mangroves has occurred in Bhangaduni (37% loss)Dalhousie Island (16% loss), Jambudwip (10% loss) and Dulibhasani West (9.7%).